Meet the Faculty: Prof. Majid Ghorbani
The CEIBS faculty comprises an esteemed group of scholars that provides a rich source of international experience in professional management and practices. They’re an inexhaustible source of CEIBS’ drive to build and deepen our mission of providing "China Depth, Global Breadth".
Professor Majid Ghorbani joined CEIBS in January 2023 as an Associate Professor of Management Practice and Academic Director of CEIBS eLab, which offers students training programmes to help them acquire skills and knowledge in new venture creation, investment, and digital technology. Prior to joining CEIBS, he was Associate Professor of Management and the Academic Director of the International MBA Program at Renmin University of China. We sat down with him to discuss his China experience and his role at CEIBS.
Could you give us a quick self-introduction of your background and your experience in China?
I was born and raised in Iran before eventually emigrating to Canada, but altogether I've spent about 23 years out of the past 35 in China.
I first came to China as a tourist in 1988 when my brother was studying at Peking University. Due to family reasons, and driven by my own interests, I then came back in 1991 to learn Chinese and pursue my undergraduate degree here. After my undergraduate, I worked for the United Nations for a few years and then I emigrated to Canada, got married, and got my PhD.
My wife and I came back to China in 2009 to show our kids where their parents used to live and liked the feeling of rediscovering the country. Eventually, we decided to move the whole family to China in 2011, when I began a position at Renmin University of China Business School’s Department of Management. I went on to work there for about 11 years.
What made you want to join the faculty at CEIBS?
I first learned about CEIBS during my PhD studies back in Canada, when I noticed that a lot of impressive academic papers were produced by CEIBS faculty members. Their excellent academic research ability together with the close connection between CEIBS and the Chinese business community aroused my interest in working here.
What classes are you teaching here at CEIBS?
So far, as a new faculty, I mainly teach MBA classes, and I’m also running the CEIBS eLab as well as a series of programs attached to eLab and entrepreneurship. In future, I will be more involved in the Global EMBA programme as well as some other Chinese programmes.
What’s your area of research, and what led you to it?
My research mostly focuses on international business, but I am interested in both entrepreneurship and business as well as corporate social responsibility, particularly environmental responsibility.
During my time working at the United Nations, where I worked as Project Director at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), I found that with every project, with every step forward, there was resistance from the private sector. I started to wonder why some businesses would hinder the development of a project with such unambiguously positive aims, and what other reasons there were besides financial interests. To go even further, why would some people support the development of a project in one culture while having a completely different attitude in another culture? That’s when I really started to pay attention to corporate behaviour and decision-making.
Whether in your work at the UN or your academic career, what does being a teacher mean to you?
I truly enjoy teaching, but in the past I was shy when it came to public speaking. At the beginning of my teaching career, I was eager to be recognised and welcomed by all the students, but it backfired. After thinking about it more deeply, I realised that as a teacher, I had to treat every lesson as a unique experience. It takes a deep study of the students, their interests and hobbies, and what they are focusing on, to connect with them.
How do you find your work at CEIBS compares to other institutions in China?
My teaching experience with the CEIBS MBA class is similar in many ways to what I was doing at Renmin University of China. But it’s also different in a sense that a lot of things are streamlined and simplified here. I’m comfortable doing things here because the way we process work is more logical.
After years of living and working experience in China, what is the most important lesson you’ve learned?
Pick your battles. See what you're good at, what you can do, then try to do those things and see where you can make a difference, as we cannot change the entire culture or the rules and regulations. That's also exactly what I teach in my class.